Defining Leadership: A Window of Opportunity

As a leadership nerd, I have collected definitions of leadership for years. There are many excellent ones. Perhaps we’ll cover them later in this blog. But after becoming certified in executive leadership coaching, I realized I should articulate my own framework for what leadership is — The Jinks Perspective on leadership if you will.

Here it is:

Lead ∙ er ∙ ship:  A window of opportunity during which vision, inspiration, and empowerment converge to propel people toward a shared goal.

Let’s break it down:

Leadership happens in moments. Whether we seize those moments or not is up to us. Leaders are not always leading. Sometimes, we fail. We miss an opportunity to lead. So leadership happens when leaders take advantage of an opportunity to lead.

A leader’s primary job is to show people a picture of what is possible. Even better is when a leader can influence multiple players to craft a shared vision. In either case, people follow because there is some picture of good ahead.

I learned a long time ago that leaders don’t motivate. They inspire. People’s motivations are internal and personal. Effective leaders know how to connect people’s existing motivations to the goal being pursued. That sparks inspiration, which creates action.

Some people are not fond of this word, because it can connote a sense of superiority. That’s not the idea behind this use of the word. In leadership, empowering is to equip, engage, enlighten, and enable. It transcends authority by placing trust in the people being led — not hoarding “power” to the point of the disengagement of others.

Vision, inspiration, and empowerment could represent the proverbial 3-legged stool. Take away any single leg, and the stool collapses. It is when these three powerful forces converge that the window opens.

If you’re not moving, you’re not leading. You’re just standing still. That’s fine if the status quo is your thing. I have resisted the notion that people hate change. It just has to be led effectively. As John Maxwell says, everything rises and falls on leadership.

Leadership is not about getting people to elevate and advance the leader’s aspirations. It is about multiplying the strength of people by leading them to a place they all want to go.

This definition of leadership, like all the good ones, avoids linking leadership to position or authority. We all have windows of opportunity to propel people toward a shared goal through vision, inspiration, and empowerment. We just have to be aware enough and courageous enough to seize them!

That’s The Jinks Perspective!

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